Rape Culture click bait

A few days ago the folks at Boing Boing rebroadcast an imagine that they’d picked up from Salon.com politics editor Elias Isquith. The image, which has now been shared by over 8,000 people on Facebook alone, started showing up in my social media feeds this morning, accompanied by words like, “horrifying.” On the face of it, the image really is horrifying, as it appears to show that a surprising number of both men and women alike in this country believe there are instances when rape is “OK.” Fortunately, though, the image doesn’t tell the whole story… Here it is.


The thing is, the image comes from a study of only 432 adolescents, in a very distinct geographic area (Los Angles).

And… by the way… the study was conducted 35 years ago.

Oh, and the results can, to a large extent, be explained by the fact that the UCLA researchers conducting the study in 1978 had people respond on a 5-point scale, and counted everyone who didn’t respond with a 1 as a “yes.”

In other words, these 432 adolescents were asked something along the lines of, “If a woman gets a man sexually excited, is non-consensual intercourse justified? Please answer on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 meaning the act would absolutely not be justified, and 5 meaning that it absolutely would be justified.” And, if a person responded with a 2, as people are generally inclined not to responds with absolutes (1s and 5s) in such cases, it was counted as a “yes.”

The folks at Salon and Boing Boing should be ashamed of themselves for sharing this without the proper context. My hope is that it was just an oversight on their part, and not purposefully done to drive web traffic.

[note: More on the study can be found at FearUs.org.]

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  1. Posted March 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t mean to suggest that there isn’t an issue. I just don’t think it helps the cause to twist old data in order to make one’s case.

  2. Quinn Phillips
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    How about some current stats and resources?



  3. Posted March 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure what’s shocking to you here.

    Is it that so man men believe that “rape” is justified in certain circumstances? Or that so many women do? Or that both do?

    I don’t think these results are surprising at all and I’m willing to bet that the results wouldn’t be all that different today among adolescents.

    Some women, falling victim to misogynistic (sp?) propaganda which pervades our society and others, are as willing to blame the victim as some men are. That’s not something we should accept, but it is something that needs to be recognized.

  4. Zap
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Peter, are you saying that you believe 42% of women in America believe that a man has a right to rape a woman if she excites him? Is that what you’re saying?

  5. Posted March 30, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m saying that it’s unreasonable to assume that no women would think that.

  6. Posted March 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Some people might interpret the question as stating that the woman has done something to provoke the man, like wear inappropriate clothing.

    At least, that’s how I’m reading it.

    There are a lot of stupid people out there.

  7. Posted March 30, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know, you guys can call me an asshole if you like, but I believe that there are a lot of religiously conservative people out there who believe that if a woman has been raped, she has done something to bring it on and even among those who aren’t religiously conservative, I think there are a lot of people who believe the same thing.

    I don’t think it should be a surprise that there are people out there who aren’t very smart.

  8. double anonymous
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    From an old thread on Reddit that I just found about this study.


    76% of those surveyed were 16 or under
    432 adolescents in Los Angeles
    50% female, 50% male
    1/3 white, 1/3 black, 1/3 Hispanic
    Broad range of education (most were still in school) and parent occupation
    37% 14-15, 39% 16, 33% 17-18.
    49% from father absent homes
    33% did not expect to complete or attend college
    61% reported to have had sexual intercourse
    Recruited subjects through a youth employment branch office of the California state employment office.
    Took one hour and compensated $5.
    Written consent was taken from both the adolescent and their parent.
    Interviewed by clinical psychology or social work graduate students
    Interviewers were in their 20s
    Interviewers were matched to adolescents by their sex and ethnicity

  9. Zap
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    With all due respect, Peter, that wasn’t the question. No one was arguing that “no” women feel this way. You said that the numbers shared by Salon didn’t surprise you, and they show that 42% of women believe that rape is justified in cases where women sexually arouse men.

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